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#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Let’s look at our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, from a reader’s perspective.

For a summary of The Art of Fielding, please check out its introductory post.

This post contains spoilers.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Literary Fiction

The Art of Fielding is our second book in a row from the Literary Fiction genre, but it couldn’t be more different from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.   Whereas Extremely Loud felt disjointed, confused, even haphazard in its presentation, The Art of Fielding led me on a journey of human emotions almost seamlessly, flowing easily from one chapter to the next.  Instead of feeling as though I was being dragged through the author’s artistic journey without a road map, as was the case with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Art of Fielding led me slowly but surely along the intended path, picking up the author’s breadcrumbs (foreshadowing) and never panicking that I was lost or had missed some vital direction sign.  And on top of that, it was a very satisfying journey.

Henry’s Collapse

Henry’s sole reason for being is to be the best shortstop ever, just like his idol St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Aparicio Rodriquez, who wrote a treatise on playing shortstop, The Art of Fielding. Henry has read this book so many times, he knows it by heart and often refers to its nuggets of baseball (life) truisms.

 3.  There are three stages:  Thoughtless being.  Thought.  Return to thoughtless being.

33.  Do not confuse the first and third stages.  Thoughtless being is attained by everyone, the return to thoughtless being by a very few.

Unfortunately, after Henry throws an errant ball that injures his friend and roommate, Owen, he begins second guessing himself, double-clutching throws.  Each error brings on even more self-doubt, until it seems impossible to break the cycle.  Henry then falls into a downward spiral.  If he no longer can see himself as the best shortstop he can be, then what is he?  Who is he?  Henry = Shortstop = Henry  is no longer a valid equation and he has nothing to replace that identity.  Having seen this happen to loved ones in real life – the loss of a career leading to a loss of identity – I found his ensuing depression heartbreaking and believable.

Debut Novels

We’ve read a surprising number of debut novels in this reading challenge, which should be heartening to any wanna be author – you too can hit a home run with your first novel and reach beyond the outfield fence – in this case, the New York Times Bestseller List.  All it takes is a great set of characters, a mix of  human emotions (love, betrayal, fear of growing old), and a relatable setting, such as the backdrop of a college baseball diamond (or a race track {The Art of Racing} or a waterfront condo in Chicago {The Silent Wife} or a town like Mill River Vermont {The Mill River Recluse}).  Isn’t that encouraging?

What’s most encouraging to me as a reader is that I finally really enjoyed a Literary Fiction novel from this challenge.  I hope that, as we get closer and closer to the best books at the end of this list, that there will be more glittering diamonds like The Art of Fielding.

Have you read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 50. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) – Discussion begins January 14, 2019
Science Fiction

#BookBeginnings The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Today I’m reading the next book in The Bestseller Code Challenge, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

 

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Westish College baseball star Henry Skrimshander is destined for the big leagues. That is, until he messes up an easy throw which leads to disaster. With his future in jeopardy, can Henry overcome his crippling self doubt?

The Art of Fielding is a work of literary fiction.

First Sentence:

Schwartz didn’t notice the kid during the game. Or rather, he noticed only what everyone else did — that he was the smallest player on the field, a scrawny novelty of a shortstop, quick of foot but weak with the bat. Only after the game ended, when the kid returned to the sun-scorched diamond to take extra grounders, did Schwartz see the grace that shaped Henry’s every move.

Discussion:

Baseball and literary fiction seem like an odd combination, but I like what I’ve read so far.

What do you think? Would you read The Art of Fielding?

 

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Let’s look at Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer from a reader’s perspective.

For a summary of Extremely Loud, please check out its introductory post.

This post contains spoilers.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

In 2016 I heard a radio interview of Jonathan Safran Foer, who was promoting his newly released book, Here I Am. The interview was interesting enough that I added Here I Am to my “must read” list.  This past December I noticed the book on the “new releases” shelf at my local library, so I brought it home, only to discover that it was written by the same author as our next book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  How serendipitous, I thought.  Not wanting to confuse myself by reading two books by the same author at the same time, I set aside Here I Am to read later and began reading our book selection.

I really wanted to love this book.  I liked the main character, Oskar.  I enjoyed his story line, his search for his lost father in New York City, even though I didn’t find it very believable that Oskar’s mother would allow him to roam NYC on his own.  After all, he is only nine.  But, for the sake of the story, I was willing to suspend that disbelief and keep reading.  As Roberta revealed in her Writer’s Review, it turns out that Oskar’s mom does know what he is doing and has surreptitiously arranged it so that Oskar is safe the whole time.  Both Oskar and the reader have been played.

Visual Cleverness

Roberta also mentioned the “clever” ways that Foer plays with the text and design throughout the book.  Oskar’s sections have their own idiosyncrasies, but the chapters that tell the stories of his grandmother and grandfather really go over the top, to the point where I found them almost unintelligible.  I’m sure the author had some lofty goals, some way these visual cues would lead us to a deeper understanding of the story, but they were completely lost on me.  I came away with only a vague understanding of his grandparent’s and their relationship, and mostly felt frustrated and cheated.

As an example, here’s a section from one of Oskar’s grandfather’s chapters (Why I’m Not Where You Are 5/21/63):

Jonathan-Safran-Foer

The entire chapter runs on this way, with no paragraph breaks and very few periods to mark the end of sentences.  I cringed every time I had to read the grandfather sections.

When I first finished reading Extremely Loud last week, I came away with a feeling of actually liking the book.  I felt it was the first Literary Fiction novel we’ve read in this challenge where I liked the story line, liked the characters, liked the outcome.  Now, a week later, I realize that that was all an illusion.  The story quickly faded in my mind and left me with more questions than answers.

I have not seen the movie that was made from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I have to wonder how the producers and screenwriters handled all these text and design “innovations” on the big screen.  Would I perhaps understand the story better by seeing the movie?

The Importance of Genre

Unfortunately, now I likely will not read Here I Am.  If Extremely Loud is indicative of this author’s writing style, I don’t need to waste more of my precious reading time.  And once again, I’m reminded of the importance of genre.  A bestseller list encompasses so many genres that one individual is never going to like every book on that list, no matter how popular it was to other readers.  Hopefully somewhere in this Reading Challenge I’ll find a Literary Fiction novel that I really and truly enjoy.

Have you read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 51. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011) – Discussion begins December 31, 2018
Literary Fiction

#BestsellerCode100: Number 51. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Westish College baseball star Henry Skrimshander is destined for the big leagues. That is, until he messes up an easy throw which leads to disaster, and the lives of those around him are changed. With his future in jeopardy, can Henry overcome his crippling self doubt?

Have you read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 50. The Martian by Andy Weir (2011) – Discussion begins January 14, 2019
Science Fiction

#BestsellerCode100: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Writer’s Review

Let’s take a look at Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer from a writer’s perspective.

This post contains spoilers.

 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell’s father died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. When he finds a key hidden in his father’s closet, he thinks it is part of a scavenger hunt game he and his dad played. This impels Oskar to go on a quest to find the lock that the key fits.

Genre

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a work of literary fiction.

Discussion

Normally I would go into the characters and setting of the book, but for this novel I’m going to take a different tack and jump right into discussion.

In the end of the book Oskar discovers the reason that his mother has allowed him to wander around the city without asking where he was going or even seeming to care about what he was doing was because she knew exactly what he was up to all along. She had talked to everyone he went to visit before Oskar arrived. She made sure he was safe by acting behind the scenes. His journey was an illusion orchestrated by his mom who assumed the role of protector and also puppet master.

Oh, the irony. As a reader, I felt every bit as manipulated by the author as Oskar was by his mother. I was supposed to admire the clever way Foer played with the text and design. My, pages 121-123 are blank. Isn’t that such a statement? So bold.

Pages 208- 216 are covered with red editor’s marks. (Well, sort of. They aren’t the marks a copy editor would use.) “How ingenious,” the reader is supposed to say. How innovative.

 

Extremely Loud

Why do I feel manipulated?

As a writer, the question becomes why does this work of fiction leave me annoyed whereas another novel, equally a work of complete fiction, can draw me in and make me completely forget the world I’m in for hours?

I’m not saying I have this all figured out by any means, but at least part of it is ego. In this novel Jonathan Safran Foer’s ego is everywhere. He wants you to admire his brilliant writing, not enjoy it. The author uses his gifts — and he is very talented — to show off, whereas another equally talented writer would step back and let the characters tell the story. You’ve probably noticed this with actors, too. Some charismatic actors always steal the show by being themselves regardless of the role. Do you ever forget that it’s Bruce Willis or Will Smith on the screen? Other sublimely gifted actors inhabit their characters so fully that the members of the audience suspend disbelief. They believe they are watching real people for the time the characters are on the screen.

The way Foer defies writing convention so blatantly is also part of it. My life is busy and I have limited time to read. As a reader, I don’t want to spend my precious hours trying to figure out the odd grammar and syntax. Instead, I want to read. I want the words to disappear and the images to roll through my head like a movie.

Every novel we’ve read for this challenge has taught me something that I hope will make me a better writer. The message I learned from this one is to be kind to your reader. Leave your ego at the door.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 51. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011) – Discussion begins December 31, 2018
Literary Fiction

#BookBeginnings The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

Let’s take a look at the young adult novel The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  A student at Arkwell Academy for magic, sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses at night. She doesn’t, however, break in to steal possessions. Instead she enters the dreams of sleeping people, feeding off their energy. When she sees the murder of a fellow student in a boy named Eli’s dream, Dusty teams up with Eli to try to figure out who killed the girl and why.

First Sentence:

Breaking and entering wasn’t as easy as it looked in the movies. Especially not from the second story of a house in the suburbs, Yet there I was, perched on the ledge by my tippy toes and tugging on the stupid window that refused to budge even though I could see it wasn’t locked. My feet were starting to cramp.

Discussion of The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

Some other regulars at Book Beginnings have featured books by Mindee Arnett, so I was eager to read the first in her Arkwell Academy trilogy.

So far I really like the first person voice of the protagonist. She sounds like a teenager, which is appropriately young adult. I also like that it seems to meld fantasy with a bit of romance and a good mystery.

What do you think? Have you read any of Mindee Arnett’s books? Do you think you’d like to read this one?

Writing Opportunity: @WriteOnCon and Critique with @MindeeArnett

Have you heard of WriteOnCon? It is a conference for #kidlit writers that anyone can attend because it is both online and so reasonably priced. What an opportunity for those of us with crazy lives and no money.

The next WriteOnCon will be will be February 8-10, 2019. Sign up today!

To add to the excitement, this week I found out I won a query letter + 25 page critique from YA author Mindee Arnett in the December Raffle. What an amazing opportunity.

Mindee Arnett’s newest is Onyx & Ivory, which has gotten some buzz in a number of the reader blogs I follow through BookBeginnings.


Now I have to quit blogging about it and go polish those 25 pages!

#BestsellerCode100: Number 52. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell’s father died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. When he finds a key, he thinks it is part of a scavenger hunt game he and his dad played, so Oskar goes on a quest to find out what it fits.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a work of literary fiction.

 

Have you read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 51. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2011) – Discussion begins December 31, 2018
Literary Fiction

#BookBeginnings Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Time to start the next book on The Bestseller Code challenge list, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-Gershkowitz

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  Nine-year-old Oskar Schell’s father died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. When he finds a key, he thinks it is part of a scavenger hunt game he and his dad played, so Oskar goes on a quest to find out what it fits.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a work of literary fiction.

First Sentence or Two:

What about a teakettle? What if the spout opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me? I could invent a teakettle that reads in Dad’s voice, so I could fall asleep…

Discussion:

Oskar Schell obviously isn’t a regular nine-year-old boy. He has a big imagination.

Below is the trailer of the movie based on the book. For some novels I don’t want to see any part of the movie before I’ve read the book because I want to envision my own characters in the role. (I have to admit Daniel Radcliffe has taken over for whomever I had envisioned as Harry Potter, but Tom Cruise will never be Jack Reacher ). In this case however, I wanted to have some idea what was going on, so I did watch the trailer.


What do you think? Have you read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close? Have you seen the movie? Did you like them? Do you have any opinion which should come first?

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review of Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

As we pick back up our Bestsellers List reading challenge, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire is the first book to review.  For a summary of Beautiful Disaster, please check out its introductory post.

This post might contain spoilers.

Beautiful Disaster* by Jamie McGuire

It’s All In The Title

“Beautiful Disaster” is the perfect title for this Bad-Boy romance.  It is obvious that Abby & Travis have an immediate connection the very first time they meet.  Whether they can overcome their pasts and find their happily-ever-after future is what compels the reader to keep reading to the end of the book.

As Roberta mentioned in her Writer’s Review, within the first few pages it felt like I was back reading Fifty Shades of Grey, only with better language and a slightly more believable situation.  I say “slightly” because there were many aspects of this story I didn’t buy into – Abby and Travis remaining celibate while sleeping in the same bed for a month and Travis not getting hauled off to jail the second or third (or fourth) time he punched some random guy in the face are two prime examples. Of the two, Beautiful Disaster was better written, but both novels moved along quickly with the same roller coaster plot line dynamic.

Publishing Similarities

It’s interesting to note that both Beautiful Disaster and Fifty Shades of Grey were originally self-published in 2011, both were acquired by established publishing firms in 2012, and both became bestsellers.  Beautiful Disaster didn’t have quite the massive success that Fifty Shades of Grey experienced, but I’d say a book that has been translated into over fifty languages worldwide didn’t do too badly.

Beautiful Disaster is told from Abby’s point of view, while the second book in the series, Walking Disaster, is the same story told from Travis’ point of view.  I’ve noticed that this is a common way for self-published authors to sell more ebooks.  McGuire concluded the series with a novella about Travis & Abby’s wedding, titled – are you ready? – “A Beautiful Wedding.

A Compulsive Read?

It’s always interesting to read the reviews that readers leave on Amazon and Goodreads.  Those readers who were able to overcome the co-dependency and borderline abusive / stalker aspects of Travis and Abby’s relationship stated that  Beautiful Disaster was a “page turner,” a “fun story,” and “a powerful love story.”  Unfortunately for me, I found it was none of these.  I couldn’t overcome my dislike of the negative aspects of their relationship.  And then, on page 355, there was one more downward spiral, one more massive misunderstanding between Abby and Travis, and that was the last straw for me.  From then on, I skimmed pages in an effort to finish the book.  I ceased caring if they ever worked things out and made it to their happily-ever-after future.

We’ve read some romances in this challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst was so good that I immediately read the other two books in that series.  Needless to say, I won’t be looking for rest of this “Disaster” series.

You can also join us on social media:

Have you written about Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 52. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (2005) – Discussion begins December 17, 2018
Literary Fiction

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